Why use the present perfect?
We use the present perfect to talk about recently completed actions or states. So why not just use the past simple? It’s usually because the recently completed action is connected to something we’re going to continue to talk about.
Emma: “Oh no! I’ve left my iPhone on the train.”
You and Emma will probably continue to talk about this.
When do we use the present perfect?
We use the present perfect whenever we want to talk about something that started in the past and has continued until now. The word now can be a bit difficult to understand. What does it really mean?
It basically means the time that we are living in at the moment. In this way, “now” is both big and small because it can mean this….. minute, hour, part of day, week, month, year or lifetime. This is why the two following sentences are both correct.
“Have you had a coffee today?” and “Have you ever been to India?”
Let’s test this.
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon. Which of these sentences is correct?
- “Have you had breakfast this morning?”
- “Have you had breakfast today?”
The answer is b. As it is no longer the morning, you cannot use the present perfect with a time that has been completed.
OK, let’s try another one. In the two statements below, which two pairs of great-grandfathers is still living?
- “I never met my great-grandfathers.”
- “I have never met my great-grandfathers.”
If you chose b, you’re correct. It’s the only sentence that lets us know that the possibility of meeting both sets of great-grandfathers still exists.
Tricky? I know. Sometimes the time is a connected to the real time, and sometimes it’s connected to the situation. The important thing to remember is that either:
- whatever it is that you are talking about in terms of time or the situation isn’t finished yet, or
- the action, event or situation has been completed recently and you are going to continue to talk about it right now
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Happy with your result? For more practice, see the PDF lessons at the bottom of this post
Question 1 of 9
1. Question1 points
It ___________ raining for a while, but now it’s raining again.Correct
The answer is “stopped” because it stopped raining but the weather has changed since then.Incorrect
The answer is “stopped” because it stopped raining but the weather has changed since then.
Has the weather changed since it stopped raining, or has it remained the same?
Question 2 of 9
2. Question1 points
The town is very different now. It ___________ a lot.Correct
Question 3 of 9
3. Question1 points
I did German at school, but I _____________________ most of it.Correct
Question 4 of 9
4. Question1 points
The police _____________ 3 people, but later, they let them go.Correct
Question 5 of 9
5. Question1 points
What do you think of my English? Do you think it __________________?Correct
Question 6 of 9
6. Question1 points
Are you still reading the paper? No I ____________________ reading it. You can have it.Correct
Question 7 of 9
7. Question1 points
I ______________for a job as a tourist job, but I wasn’t successful.Correct
Question 8 of 9
8. Question1 points
Where’s my bike. It ____________ outside the house, but it’s not there now.Correct
Question 9 of 9
9. Question1 points
Look! There’s an ambulance over there. There __________ an accident.Correct
Are there other ways to use it?
Yes. We use it when we want to talk about how long an action has occurred or how long a state has existed.
“I have lived here for 5 years.”
Whenever we talk about how long we have done something, we are talking about a duration of time and whenever we talk about a duration, we use the preposition, “for”.
So can we say I have lived here for 2011?
No. 2011 is a point in time, so we have to use “since”.
What about yet and already?
If you want to talk about an action that you believe should have been completed recently, you can use yet.
- “Has the pizza arrived yet? We ordered it 40 minutes ago.”
- “Sorry. No, it hasn’t arrived yet.”
* Note: If you answer affirmatively, then you do not have to include the word “yet” in your answer.
- “Have you finished yet?”
- “Yes, I have.”
Already works in the opposite way. If you want to tell someone that an action has taken place. You combine already with the present perfect.
- “Are you going to read that book next week?”
- “No. I’ve already read it.”
Are you going to start reading this tutorial now?
No! Because you’ve just finished it!
For follow up exercises (PDF), click the one of the links below: